Tuesday, October 18, 2005
Tri-Colored Zoanthid Polyps and Palytoxin
Skirt: Green, Fill: Orange/Violet, Mouth: Blue The often stunning colored Zoanthid polyp is a rapid growing soft coral commonly found in reefs around the world. Like most corals, they obtain much of their nutrient requirement from the symbiotic unicellular algae called zooxanthellae. As a result, these corals are usually found not far beneath the surface and in the aquarium they should be placed high under intense lighting. Zoanthids contain the highly toxic substance palytoxin. Palytoxin is the most toxic organic substance in the world, but there is an ongoing debate over the concentration of this toxin in these animals. However, even in small quantities, the toxin can be fatal should it be ingested or enter the blood stream. Pacific Island tribes actually used the toxin on spear tips to stun prey animals and enemies. I have read stories of people losing their sense of taste for twenty four hour periods, eye infections and of a dogs death from eating the polyps. There is no known anti-toxin. Propagation is possible and easy when performed carefully. I propagate underwater with rubber gloves in the aquarium because the toxin is very soluble in seawater.